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29 NOV 2000




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Malaysia's Anwar does not need overseas surgery, minister says


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (AFP) - Jailed Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim does not need the overseas spinal surgery which his wife has requested, Home Affairs Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday.

Anwar was transferred from prison to hospital nine weeks ago with severe back pain. His lawyers and family say he needs specialist microsurgery which could best be done overseas in a dedicated spinal centre.

Abdullah, making the government's first comment on the issue, said treatment abroad was not necessary but he did not appear to rule it out.

"I'm not here to comment on what kind of surgery he wants but experts' opinion is that it can be done here," said Abdullah, who is also Anwar's successor as deputy premier.

"No reason for Anwar to ask to go overseas. For medical reasons, for example if treatment is not available here, then we can consider (it)."

Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said last Saturday she hoped the government would consider the request for treatment abroad and added: "This is the season of forgiveness."

Anwar is serving a total of 15 years in jail after being convicted in separate trials of abusing his official powers and of sodomy.

He says his former mentor, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, orchestrated a conspiracy to frame him because he was seen as a political threat. The government denies any plot.

Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair has not formally applied for him to go abroad for treatment -- a request which would pose a dilemma for the authorities.

But Nair has told hospital authorities his client has the right to obtain the treatment of his choice if he is prepared to pay for it.

The lawyer this week asked hospital authorities for permission to fly in a German spinal specialist to inspect Anwar.

Nair has told AFP that Malaysian state hospitals are only equipped to conduct conventional back surgery, which carries a significant risk of paralysis, rather than the specialist "non-invasive" operation which he says experts have recommended.



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